“What does it mean to have integrity? It means many things, of course, but one criterion is to avoid behavior that readily leads to shame or remorse. The ethical terrain here extends well beyond the question of honesty—but to truly have integrity, we must not feel the need to lie about our personal lives.
To lie is to erect a boundary between the truth we are living and the perception others have of us. The temptation to do this is often born of an understanding that others will disapprove of our behavior. Often, there are good reasons why they would.
Pick up any newspaper and look at the problems people create for themselves by lying—problems that seem to require more lies to mitigate. It is simply astonishing how people destroy their marriages, careers, and reputations by saying one thing and doing another. Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Wiener—these are men whose names now conjure images of the most public self-destruction. Of course, their transgressions weren’t merely a matter of lying. But deception was what prepared the ground for their humiliation. One can get divorced without having to issue a public apology. It is even possible to live a frank and utterly unconventional life of sexual promiscuity, or exhibitionism, without paying the penalties these men paid. Many lives are almost scandal-proof. Vulnerability comes in pretending to be someone you are not.”
From Sam Harris’s excellent 26-page e-book Lying.
I highly recommend you pick-up or download a copy of this thought-provoking essay; for the amount of effort it demands, it’s one of the most stirring and rewarding reads I’ve encountered in the past year. Put simply, it will confront you with a worthy challenge: you should prefer to be awkward or even rude rather than dishonest.
If you don’t want to get your own copy of Lying, you can check back here for more, as I’ll be posting a few more excerpts over the next several days.
As found on the quotes page: “The further you run from your sins, the more exhausted you are when they catch up to you.”